Who wouldn’t want to wake up to a text claiming that someone, like AT&T, owes you money?
My friend and neighbor sent me a copy of a message he received this week involving an AT&T Free Msg. account: “We accidentally overcharged your phone bill last month. Kindly your compensation here:”
Make no mistake, AT&T confirmed that it isn’t sending out these texts. But an AT&T spokesperson would not elaborate on the extent of the latest scam attack on customers. Reports, though, indicate that consumers elsewhere are seeing these kind of texts this summer too.
Sure, the grammar and language are completely off and that’s a huge red flag of a scam right there. And they’re asking you to click on a link, which is never smart when you get an email out of the blue like this one.
You don’t want to click on any unknown links or reply in any way to these spammers. Any reply only alerts the spammer that your phone number is active, according to an AT&T forum online about this scam.
And AT&T warns: “Clicking on the link could lead to malware and compromise of your personal data.”
AT&T asks its customers to forward spam messages to 7726 (SPAM).
AT&T also recommends downloading its AT&T Mobile Security & Call Protect App, which scans devices and all apps for malware and suspicious software.
Utility sweepstakes, of sorts
What’s odd about this scam is that typically I’ve written about fraudsters who are trying to scare you into paying a past due bill, like an electric bill or gas bill.
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One popular trick is a phone call that claims to be from DTE Energy or another utility and threatens to shut off your electricity unless you pay $800 or $1,000 on the spot. They might catch you off guard — especially when you don’t want to lose your air conditioning in a heat wave — and scare you into putting money on prepaid cards or gift cards.
But here, the crooks are offering a quick fix for giving you more money, money that you’re supposedly owed.
It’s almost a new twist on the sweepstakes prize scam. Here’s money just waiting for you if you click on this link.
The imposter text could look like something you might get about your bill but it does not have an AT&T identification in the link.
What is smishing?
More criminals are turning to what’s known as “SMiShing” — where a text is sent through a “short message system,” according to an AT&T online alert.
You do not want to respond to these short texts. Instead, experts recommend that you go directly to a company’s website or call a phone number that is listed on your statement if you want to make sure something is legitimate.
Scammers impersonate big name brands by building fake websites using forged company logos, signatures and styles.
The smishing messages often appear to be from a government agency or trusted company that you know.
Sometimes, these texts can ask for a Social Security number or online account password, according to an AARP Fraud Watch Network alert.
Such texts make it seem like you need to react right away. Some might say you’re about to lose out on benefits or suggest that your account has already been compromised.
One consumer reported receiving one of these smishing texts that said: “We are thankful for your payment Tony!” But the consumer had no idea what company was texting and no payments had been made, according to a report in August to the BBB ScamTracker.
Another consumer reported receiving a scam phone call from someone pretending to be from AT&T.
The consumer told the BBB ScamTracker: “She asked are you happy with your AT&T charges. If you would like lower charges, press one. I pressed one. A man came on the line. They could give me a lower rate if I pay $99.99. One time fee. He asked for my credit card number. I hung up.”
Hanging up — and never pressing one — are your best bets with these scam attempts. And do not click on these ridiculous links in the next text that pops up out of the blue.
ContactSusan Tompor via email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter@tompor. To subscribe, please go to freep.com/specialoffer. Read more on business and sign up for our business newsletter.